Amboseli is synonymous with elephants. And while the elephants my look the same to the casual observer, every elephant in Amboseli has a name and can be identified by the researchers studying them. The Jane Goodall of the African elephant world is Cynthia Moss. She has been studying the elephants of Amboseli since 1972 and formed the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (http://www.elephanttrust.org/) which has resulted in a much greater understanding of these amazing animals and helped protect them and their natural habitat.
These two elephants had just finished dusting themselves with dirt prior to heading back towards Mt. Kilimanjaro. With no appreciable rain for over two years, the elephants have to travel long distances to find food and water. Thankfully, a few months after I had visited the park the rains finally came and almost instantly the land was transformed from a desert into a lush green savannah.
The old matriarch of the herd brings up the rear as two huge African elephants make there way across the dusty, dry earth of Amboseli National Park. I lost count of the number of dead wildebeest and zebra that had been affected by the drought. Once elephants reach about 5 years of age they become extremely drought tolerant. However, adult females will stop cycling until they build up enough fat reserves to support a pregnancy and often the young elephants will die during a drought due to decreased fat content of the mother’s milk and lack of vegetation. The adults are much more capable of traveling long distances to find food and watering holes but instead of moving in large groups, they break off into smaller groups in search of food and very little time is spent socializing and playing because all of their time needs to be spent searching and eating food to sustain themselves. The average adult African elephant consumes about 400lbs of vegetation a day!
There isn’t much that is better than relaxing at the end of a long day and watching a beautiful sunset, unless of course you are in Africa, where the sunsets seem so much more intense. Add in a majestic elephant and this was the perfect ending to an awesome day of game viewing.
After a day of frustration in Nairobi due to a late start by the tour company we made it to Amboseli National Park just as the sun was setting and the clouds were lifting from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. With the light fading fast I snapped this photo of the mountain as we sped down the road. Although I have traveled to many of the parks in Kenya, I had yet to make it to Amboseli and so when my trip to Samburu National Park in northern Kenya fell through I decided it would would be a perfect time to visit. Amboseli is renowned for it’s elephants and the views of the volcanic, Mount Kilimanjaro. Mt. Kilimanjaro contains virtually every ecosystem on earth – glacier, snowfields, deserts, alpine moorland, savannah, and tropical jungle and a hike up the slopes is said to be comparable to a trip from the equator to the North Pole. It is the tallest mountain in Africa at a height of 5895 meters or 19,340 feet and it also holds the title of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world rising 4900 meters or 16 000 feet above the plains at its base. While it is located entirely within Tanzania some of the best views are from Kenya.
This photo was taken from on top of Observation hill in Amboseli National Park. The park has not received more than a few drops of rain in over two years! I lost count of the number of dead zebra and wildebeest and even other more drought resistant species like elephant and giraffe are severely affected. also cattle we saw on our game drives. So why is there this oasis of water and green vegetation? It is the result of the melting glaciers and snow on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro running down the sides of the mountains. The water from Mt. Kilimanjaro travels several hundred kilometers to the Indian ocean and is often the only source of water for humans and wildlife along the way. Elephants and buffalo are routinely found almost completely submerged in the marshes eating, cooling off and getting a drink while other species come to the edges to drink. By continually walking on the bottom of the marsh the elephants pack down the mud and ensure that the watering holes don’t get filled in and dry up. However, the glaciers and snow on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro are disappearing at an alarming rate which is believed to be due to global warming and the removal of large portions of the forests that grow on the sides of the mountain. It is estimated that within the next 20 years all of the frozen water on top of the mountain will have melted with devastating effects felt by the people and animals that rely on it to survive.
One of my favorites. I took this photo from the community campsite I was staying at inside Amboseli National Park. Most of the classic photos of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background with elephants making their way across the savannah are from Amboseli National Park. The tour guide that I had on this trip was not very accommodating so instead of going on an early morning game drive I only had the option of waking up early and walking around the campsite grounds to take photos. Thankfully, the area was quiet large and I lucked out and saw elephants browsing on acacia trees, wildebeest making their way to the watering holes and a beautiful sunrise with a clear view of Mount Kilimanjaro.